David Artz: Oswego Native Part of Historic Farewell For President George H. W. Bush

Oswego native David Artz
Oswego native David Artz

By Bill Foley
Some of those major moments in life come at the most unexpected times.

This past week, Oswego native David Artz found himself in the National Cathedral Choir in Washington D.C. for the memorial service for the nation’s 41st President, George H. W. Bush.

Oswego native David Artz
Oswego native David Artz

However, he certainly didn’t plan on being there.

Reached at his home in the District of Columbia area, David said, “I am on the substitute list for the National Cathedral Choir and I got a call on Sunday asking if I could come to rehearsal that night and be in the choir for President Bush memorial service.”

Continuing he said, “I hadn’t been expecting it as I did not get a call for the (Senator John) McCain funeral. However, it was two or three on Sunday afternoon and I had just gotten back from my normal church job at the Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Md. I was getting ready to do some things with some friends when I received the call. It was going to be a special event to be part of and a huge honor to be chosen for this type of service.”

This wasn’t the first time that Artz had been part of historical events as he explained, “The only other major function I did was the Inauguration in January a year ago. It is exciting to be part of such big events.”

Rehearsal for the memorial service was intense and under the direction of Michael McCarthy, the director of choirs at the National Cathedral.

The National Cathedral Chorus was joined by Armed Services Chorus and the U.S. Marine Band, as David noted, “I was beyond tired.”

Wednesday was the culmination of an extremely busy period.

David said, “They cordoned off a two or three block radius around the cathedral. The choir congregated down the street from the military entrance. We had to go through security. I woke up at 4:45 a.m. and had to be at the designated parking lot and on the shuttle by 7 a.m. At 7:15 a.m. we were allowed to head over to the cathedral and immediately went through security again. We were escorted to the lower chapel. Our rows were preset and there was Secret Service everywhere. When coming down afterward I didn’t realize how many armed soldiers there were. Security was so tight that we couldn’t even take any water upstairs and I emptied my pockets because I didn’t want to have any problems.”

During the services the National Cathedral Choir, Armed Forces Chorus and Marine Band performed arrangements of “America the Beautiful,” a piece that was commissioned for the Gerald Ford Funeral “My House Shall be Called a House of Prayer”, the McCarthy arrangement of the “King of Love My Sheppard Is” as well as “Oh God Our Help in Ages Past” and “The Lord’s Prayer.”

Artz left with some lasting impressions as he explained, “It was extremely touching. I had heard people in the content of politics and news reports, but to hear his son, George W., speak as just a son was very touching to me.”

He witnessed something that is seldom seen…the gathering of all living men who had served as President of the United State.

Continuing he said, “I was in the Great Choir area a distance way, but when we were coming in and had gotten past the last layer of security I thought I saw Jimmy Carter and there he was talking to Michelle Obama. It was just one of those moments.”

The scope of the event hit him in a rather unique way as he explained, “The interesting thing is as I sat there listing to sermons I looked up to see who was reading and there I was looking at the back of George W. Bush, a former president, It was an odd feeling as you know normally the person reading is whoever might have signed up to read during the services.”

David performed regularly in lead roles in Oswego High School musicals, but the tenor now makes his living with work between Washington and Baltimore.

David Artz performs in Carmina Burana
David Artz performs in Carmina Burana

He said, “This month is the only month that I have not been in a full opera production. In the Fall, I had a small role as a French soldier in the Washington National Opera Company at the Kennedy Center in Silent Night, a World War I production based on the Christmas Truce of 1914. It was a Pulitzer Prize winning poignant piece and this was its debut.”

He also works with the Washington Concert Opera as well as local his local church duties.

He’s also been asked to participate in a service comemotating the Apollo 8 Mission that is being arranged by Michael McCarthy.

The former Oswego High School, Syracuse University Set nor School of Music at the College of Visual and Performing Arts student auditioned and earned grad school placement at the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins and would like to take some courses “in sound production and sound engineering.”

He has been committed to opera and explained, “It’s a subjective thing. I enjoy all kinds of music, but find performing opera especially thrilling. There is room for poignancy with different styles. There are moments you can reach out and touch people. It high risk and you are right on the edge of something that could turn into a huge disaster. It is important to prepare and disciplined ones self.”

David has been influenced, “by quite a few people and in fact my mother (Laurel) was a huge help and influence. Looking back, but I didn’t realize it then, but one this that really influenced me was my father (Donald) singing along with songs in the car. I know all kinds of music and my friends wonder why I know so many old songs.”

He added, “I’m happy with what I’ve got right now. I am content with what I do. I really like most finding small roles in opera chorus and once in a while I’m in the spotlight, but I don’t really need that.”

Looking back to his high school years, he reflects and notes, “Music in schools is an extremely valuable thing. It is one that that I will be forever indebted to the programs in our schools in Oswego. Music is an extremely valuable commodity.”